Why You Should Seek Criticism

Most students will experience their first job interview between the ages of 14 and 16. They will show up in an ill-fitting but passable professional outfit and hand over a disappointing resume consisting of their GPA, community service credit hours, and honor roll mentions. Their mother will be so proud, and she should be. 

A recent graduate from the entrepreneurial program Praxis gave this fantastic quote about first jobs in a recent podcast:

“Don’t be precious about your first job. Your first job exists for two reasons — to help you learn and to help you make money. That’s it. You don’t have to love it. Adopt a mindset where you’re there to learn. That’s what makes it fun even if you weren’t initially excited about it.”
– Emily Cozzens

Talkin’ ‘Bout Praxis

This piece of advice was something I wish I had heard when going into my first job as a dishwasher at a local bar when I was 16. I remember halfway through their season, it got so hot back in the dish pit that I passed out. I was embarrassed when my dad practically forced his way to my bosses office to demand that I was put in better working conditions. Admittedly, I had been burnt out (literally and figuratively), but there was an immense value in the gritty, exhausting work I did in the back of the kitchen. My parents were definitely proud, but they could never have matched how it made me feel. 

As time has gone on, I’ve found myself seeking jobs that would help me move forward in the career I want to build. Sure, my dishwashing job was fantastic for building my character and giving me confidence in my abilities, but no employer looking for a marketing director will care about it. I was searching for a job that would help me build my resume. That was my first mistake. 

I had an interview today for a position I am incredibly excited about. Regardless of whether or not I get the job, the conversation I had with the interviewer was fantastic, but not in the way you’d think. Towards the end of the call, they began to politely explain what they would have done if they had applied for the position I was aiming at. I had been dreading this since the beginning of the interview because I knew I felt unprepared. School has had me on a tightrope, but that’s no excuse for not doing my homework on the company. 

As the interviewer went on about what I presume to be what I did wrong, I found myself smiling. Once they had said their peace and given me some amazing advice, I knew my chance at the position was fairly slim, but I felt satisfied with ending the call. I wasn’t happy that I hadn’t gotten the position, I was happy that I knew what I did wrong. After applying for internships, part-time jobs, and summer positions for months with no replies, I finally had an idea of my errors. It was as though a weight of ambiguity had been lifted off of me. 

When you seek criticism from those who know what they are looking for, they will all tell you a few of the same things:

  1. Your resume is wrong.
  2. We don’t care about references.
  3. You need to show us that you’re prepared to work before you get the job.

Applying for positions or opportunities is not about how bulky your resume is, or how many references you can gather, or how beautiful your cover letter is, it’s about doing the work for the interviewer. I had heard this concept repeated to me a million times, but it only seemed to click today. Looking for positions that will “add to your resume” is worthless if they don’t also add to the skills you have. What do you think an employer wants? A piece of paper they have to read and then decipher if you’re the best candidate or a piece of work relevant and specific to the job you’re applying for that tells them more efficiently if you’re what they want?

Take the best of everyone’s advice. Take what you want to take. Most people who share thoughts and opinions don’t expect them to make a huge impact. Seek criticism and seek it shamelessly. We are so afraid to admit that we’ve failed, and even more afraid to ask for help. Be humble, but be confident. You’re not worthless because you don’t know how to do something. You’re more valuable when you seek and accept guidance because it allows your mind to exist in an open, flexible state. When you seek criticism, your ability to hear others thoughts, perspectives, opinions, problems, and ideas will expand. Seeking criticism is not about beating yourself up, it’s about being willing to learn.

Traditional schools will tell you that it’s your resume, your references, and your cover letter that will get you through the door. That’s what they’ve told me for years, and as soon as I tried to implement it, I learned how flawed and ineffective it is. Seek criticism from every employer who turns you down. 90% may never respond once they send you a rejection email, but that other 10% are the employers who want to see growth within the skills of the job market. They care about your improvement because you represent the future of your field. Any good business owner will want to ensure their prosperity in the future, which means letting you know how to improve when you apply again.

Criticism is a beautiful part of life. When you can learn to accept and absorb the information others are willing to share with you, you will understand how much empathy and passion comes from those people. The people who are willing to take time, even a small portion of it, to help you with a part of your life that is truly impactful: your career. Value those people, let them know that you have used their advice, appreciated it, and heard it for what it was. Critics are the better educators, for they know what they want and are not afraid to say so.

Eloragh

Featured Image Credit

Advertisements

Corrections

As a ballet dancer, I get a lot of corrections. In fact, I go to class and hope that my teacher takes time to correct everything I do wrong. After my day is done, I have a notebook where I write down every last piece of critique or advice that any of my instructors have given me throughout the day. Their thoughts are that valuable to me.

Some dancers have an incredibly difficult time when getting corrections. They see it as a teacher picking on them or criticizing their ability, which can really impede their progress. It can be frustrating to witness those people when you understand where they are in their mind and how far they’ll need to go to move past that mindset. We don’t go to class six days a week and push our bodies to their breaking point because we already have perfect technique, we do it because we know we have the potential to be better. However, being better often requires direction from someone who has already been in our (pointe) shoes. It requires acknowledging that we will always be stronger and weaker in some areas of our dancing, but that constant search for balance is what makes ballet an addicting art.

That is why I treasure criticism and corrections so much. I hold the highest respect for my instructors, as ballet is a horribly frustrating art for everyone involved. External rotation of the hips is something you can’t teach, it’s a feeling each student has to develop differently. I know I can be a frustrating student. I work incredibly hard, but I don’t have the best rotation or the best lines or the best back, etc. I do have a few things going for me, such as my superhuman hyper-extension and extreme passion for the art form. Despite my setbacks, I enjoy knowing that I will always have something to work on and strive for.

Ballet has brought me a lot more than strength and flexibility (although I very much appreciate those two contributions), it has also given me an immense appreciation for criticism and those who are willing to provide it. When I finally understood that a teacher will only give corrections to those that want to get better, I was so happy to hear “point your foot, Eloragh!” from halfway across the studio. It’s motivating that someone recognizes my hard work and wants to give me more opportunities to push myself.

I will admit that some teachers go so far. Last summer I went to Carlisle, PA for a five-week intensive ballet program that I did not enjoy. It was obvious that the teachers didn’t want me there, the administration was not willing to be flexible, and the technique was so extreme that I ended up injuring my lower back by rotating too much. If I had stayed another week, I could have crushed some of the smaller vertebrae near my tailbone. So, yes, criticism can go too far, but in appropriate doses, it can be an essential source of information and wisdom.

I often find myself being very critical of the work I do outside of ballet. Any suggestion of any slight adjustment in something I produced makes me question everything about the product. It’s more difficult – but increasingly important – that I apply my mindset of gratefulness towards criticism or corrections for any kind of work I do. I try to remind myself that if they didn’t think I could do better, they wouldn’t ask me to strive for more.

So, in some ways, I pity the dancers that won’t or can’t take corrections. They are limiting their achievements due to a fear of acknowledging that they are less than perfect. I was only able to start improving when I accepted that perfection is unachievable, but still something to strive for. When I find myself upset that I will never be a flawless dancer with beautifully refined technique, I remind myself of this quote by Michelangelo: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

Eloragh